Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Remember, remember

I was reading Deuteronomy in my Bible this morning. Amongst the various laws given to Israel in chapter 24 was the one I've picked out below:
8 Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that you observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so you shall observe to do.
9 Remember what the Lord your God did unto Miriam by the way, after you had come forth out of Egypt.
10 When you lend your brother any thing, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge.
"Remember" is a common Biblical commandment. J C Ryle famously wrote a chapter of his great work "Holiness" on the words spoken by Jesus, "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32).

The thing that struck me is that this is indeed a command. It's not a suggestion, or a piece of good "works for me" advice being passed on. God actually requires his people to remember. And what does he command them to remember? In this case, it's not the great act of the redemption out of Egypt - though that is often itself commanded. Rather, it was just a simple single event - not involving their leader, Moses or the High Priest, Aaron, but their sister Miriam. It was a rather shameful incident for her of pride and grumbling, recorded in Numbers 12. On that occasion God judged her with leprosy for a short time before restoring her.

God's acts in history and his various dealings with his people are intended to be remembered. By this time, Miriam was dead (Numbers 20:1), but her memory was intended to be maintained. Our God is the God who acts in history, and Christianity is not just a belief system whose historical content can be safely jettisonned without any serious loss. Whether in theological liberalism arising in the 19th century which attempted to do this across the board, or theistic evolutionary teaching within modern evangelicalism which attempts to do this with the foundational chapters of Genesis - the historical acts of God in history are not just pleasant and optional side events in the Bible. They are acts which reveal God, which reveal fundamental principles that we are to take note of, and which themselves as our history as God's covenant people have shaped the present that we find ourselves in. Remembering them - in the sense of taking note and adapting our own behaviour accordingly - is not just helpful; according to God, it's compulsory.

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